Whether it’s a toe-tap or a full-blown car dance, music has the ability to get us to move. At sporting events, we have mascot routines and dance cams that make us laugh. We watch shows that tell a story through the artistry of professionals. Whether it’s an expression of joy or telling a story, dance is a physical reaction to a feeling created by music.
Just like American Idol inspiring a number of singing competitions, Dancing with the Stars has inspired a range of dancing competitions. One of the newer competitions, World of Dance, is featuring dance crews that are at the top of the game. In Season 3, Exiles took the competition by storm, putting their faith and music from Christian Hip Hop artists in the spotlight. We took some time to chat with Exiles about their journey.
Tell us about who Exiles is and how you got started.
Exiles is a dynamic, God-centered, Hip Hop dance crew from Coolidge, AZ. We recognize our talents as gifts from God and want to use them to honor him.
Most of the Exiles have been dancing together for several years on a bigger team called United Dance Company and every year we would compete at the Hip Hop International USA and WORLD Hip Hop Dance Championships. However, in 2017, we wanted to bring something different to the stage. While we were still supporting and competing with UDC, we wanted to form a passionate brotherhood of dancers that showcased all of the different specialties we could offer. And with that, Exiles was created.
Through God’s provision, we found success at both the USA and World Hip Hop Championships (USA Silver medalist 2017/2018, Worlds - T-5th 2018). That led into our journey on NBC’s World of Dance and now we are working and pushing ourselves to see what God will do next.
What was the moment that you decided to compete on World of Dance? Was there any uncertainty after you signed up?
Well, we were already fans of the show during the first season, so auditioning was always a possibility. Interestingly enough, we were actually asked to audition for season 2, but we turned it down because the timing wasn’t right. We just weren’t ready for that kind of platform quite yet.
We had faith, however, that if we continued working on our craft and our chemistry as a team, we would be ready if they had another season. Sure enough, that’s what happened. Once Season 3 was announced we made it a goal that we were going to audition.
As far as the dancing was concerned, there wasn’t any major uncertainty because we were so focused on the task at hand. However, there was uncertainty in how we were going to get the time off of work to go audition! Most of our members also have non-dance related jobs outside of Exiles.
You weren't shy about the fact that you were a Christian dance crew on the show. How was that received on and off stage?
Most of the interactions were positive. We worked hard and showed that Christians can get down too, and that really helped. We made it known that God was our motivation but never an excuse to not strive for excellence. We tried to be like Jesus in all of our interactions with fellow dancers and the WOD staff. We made it a goal to genuinely show love to the people we met. Honestly, the fact that we were able to be so bold on a secular nationally televised TV show is purely God’s doing! Not everyone gets to be that open when they are on a platform like that.
In your intro package, you said that if you won, the money would be going to a studio in your hometown. Can you tell us a little about your mission?
Our mission is to give our community a safe haven, specifically for the youth. In a small town, there is not much to do at times. Unfortunately, it draws kids and teens into destructive activities. However, our community responds enthusiastically to dance and we want to provide a place where they can learn to dance and also learn about The Gospel. We pray before and after every practice, we unashamedly credit God as our savior and gift-giver, we even use the studio building as a church on Sundays. Many of our dance students are regular attendees. There is still a lot to be done to finish our studio building, but it’s been amazing to see how many people have gotten behind us and supported us.
How did the time on World of Dance push you to advance your artistry?
It pushed us to our limits in every way. Physically, we had to balance working hard with not burning out. In fact, one of our members got injured the day before the first show day and performed injured the whole time we were in the competition. He wasn’t the only one that felt the physical toll, though, everyone on the team at some point had to battle their physical limitations.
In the end, being on the show made the dream of being an artist seem much more real. We definitely feel the increased expectations and feel challenged to live up to them.
There's obviously a lot of hip-hop involved with the dance, but what other styles of music do you listen to? Will we see a piece to "Oceans" or "Build My Life?" (joking!)
It’s funny you mention that! A few of us started our dance journey by dancing to praise and worship music. If you look at our company team, United Dance Company, you will find us dancing and performing human videos to songs like “Even When It Hurts,” “Brother,” “Everything,” and other contemporary Christian songs. If you go really far back, you might even find us dancing to “Freedom Reigns” and “Precious Lamb of God.” There were a lot fewer stunts and tricks in our pieces back then. Hip Hop is our main genre, but it’s not that uncommon to see us branch out, believe it or not.
Be sure to follow Exiles on Instagram at @_exiles_ for the latest news and videos!
Jake is a longtime fan of Christian music, Jesus Freak Cruiser, a techie, and a softball player. He lives in Texas with his wife and daughter.
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